Trend to shorter hospital stays continues

Hospital stays of less than one day - same day separations - are now almost half (46%) of all hospital separations, and have increased by 52% since 1993-94 according to Australian hospital statistics 1997-98, to be released on 30 June by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The average length of stay in hospital also continues to decline: from 4.6 days in 1993-94 to 4.1 days in 1997-98.

Report co-author, Ms Jenny Hargreaves, said that with shorter stays more patients are going through hospitals. Between 1996-97 and 1997-98 separations from public acute hospitals increased by 3% and from private hospitals by 6%. Nearly a third of overall patient separations were from private hospitals.

Conditions relating to the five national health priority areas - cardiovascular health, cancer control, injury prevention and control, mental health, and diabetes - made up 41% of total patient days in 1997-98, representing more than 9 million patient days.

Australian hospital statistics 1997-98 also looks at public hospital expenditure. The reports co-author, Dr Janis Shaw said that $13 billion was spent on hospital services in 1997-98, representing a real increase in spending of 5% (expenditure in 1996-97 was $12.2 billion).

Other findings in Australian hospital statistics 1997-98 include:

  • One bed was available for every 332 Australians, ranging from one bed for every 211 people in remote areas to one bed for every 366 people in metropolitan areas.
  • About 68% of hospital patients were treated in public hospitals during 1997-98, compared with 72% in 1993-94.
  • Less than one in 10 public hospital patients were private patients, compared to one in six in 1993-94.
  • In 1997-98 people aged over 65 comprised 12% of the total population, but accounted for 31% of total hospital separations, and 46% of patient days.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were reported to have almost twice the separation rate of the overall Australian population, 86% higher, after allowing for age structure (although the quality of Indigenous identification is not yet acceptable).


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